Sometimes the most significant moments in life lie in what’s left unsaid, the connections that go unmade. Fulfillment Center, onstage at the Stonzek Studio at Lake Worth Playhouse through February 9, explores the shades of intimacy within human interactions and mines the caves of what’s exchanged and what remains.
Playwright Abe Koogler joins four characters—John, Alex, Suzan, and Madeleine, though their names are very, very rarely said—who all find themselves in New Mexico at the same point in time. Alex (Nani Edry) hires Suzan (Brenda Aulbach) as a seasonal employee at the titular fulfillment center. Suzan, who is just passing through the area on her way to Maine, befriends John (Russell Kerr) at a communal campsite. John meets a Madeleine (Monica Harvey) online, and she also happens to be Alex’s live-in girlfriend who just moved west from New York City. Oh, the tangled webs we weave.
One could make the case that not much actually happens in Fulfillment Center, but Koogler excels at identifying the significant in the mundane. The play finds its heartbeat in Koogler’s pairing of these characters within duet scenes and forcing them into difficult conversations—ones in which they must choose to either share their true selves or offer a more obstructed view. In the end, it’s the push and pull of these forces within them and between one another that leads to the play’s most cathartic moments.
Director Charlotte Otremba guides her cast through these emotional minefields with dexterity, preparing them to both shoulder the heavy lifting and careen to the overbearing force of vulnerability, like a ship to a wave. The foursome more than rises to the challenge. Given the austere stage dressing and the black box setting, the actors have no room to hide or cower from what’s being asked of them. Instead, they dig into the script, identifying the beats of every scene and establishing unique rhythms within each one.
Fulfillment Center invites audiences to enter into these characters’ lives and, in doing so, reveals a truth about how we all connect to one another. It’s this universal theme that makes the play resonate long after the final bow.